By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
If you get on the freeway in Los Angeles and drive east into the dead heat of the Mojave Desert, take a left past the red rock spires of the Spring Mountains, then continue down lonely roads, past a string of one-horse towns and barren landscapes and a wide sky that will not quit, you’ll eventually find yourself at the ass-end of a forgotten highway, in the town of Crystal, Nevada, population 100 — no kids. Since this is just about the driest spot in all of America, you’ll be thirsty and wanting refreshment and thus may find yourself sitting in a bar caught in the middle of the state’s slowly burgeoning brothel wars, doing what essentially amounts to espionage with an assortment of cowboys, pimps and hookers. And if you’re like me, or like other people from Hollywood who suddenly find themselves in such a compromising position, you may wonder how things could ever have gotten so precarious. Well, the long answer is what follows, but the short answer is Heidi Fleiss.
Heidi Fleiss, the ex–Hollywood Madam, the woman who used to stash clumps of cash beneath her mattress, the woman who took the fall and didn’t name names, the woman who served three years’ hard time for being, in her own words, “a flesh peddler,” is going legit. Oh, sure, she’s still going to peddle flesh, but she wants to do it legally this time. Her plan is to open a brothel in Crystal, about 80 miles outside of Las Vegas. It isn’t going to be like any other brothel in America, or anywhere else for that matter. Her establishment will cater to women. Only women. Her hookers will be men, gigolos to be exact. Heidi Fleiss is trying to open a stud farm. Technically, she’s trying to become America’s first stud farmer.
I had called Fleiss at her home in Nevada because I wanted to drive out and see her stud farm.
“You know there’s nothing to see,” she told me. “Nothing’s built. I’ve got 60 acres of desert. It’s just cactuses.”
But I was welcome to come see the cactuses. She had only one demand: She hated photo shoots, wanted a photographer who wouldn’t make her pose. I found that photographer, and we agreed to travel on a Tuesday a few weeks later. She told me to make arrangements and call her back on the Monday before, just to make sure.
When I called her back, she said, “Change of plans, I have to be in L.A. I’ve got a photo shoot Wednesday morning.”
I didn’t mention that she hated photo shoots, didn’t mention that she had sworn off photo shoots, just shrugged my shoulders and said, “Why don’t we drive you back to Vegas? We can leave after the photo shoot.”
Somewhere a light bulb went off. Fleiss had a couple of cars in L.A. — a Bronco and an old truck — that she needed to have driven back to Vegas. I would ride in one car with her, and the photographer would drive the other. I told her the photographer wasn’t going to be able to drive one of her cars, but we could certainly drive together in the other one. She said we would take the Bronco, because three people could fit in the Bronco. Not the truck. Three people couldn’t fit in the truck. So we would leave Wednesday, in the Bronco, right after the photo shoot.
But we didn’t leave after the photo shoot, because suddenly she had to have dinner with the widow of a famous dead guy. Wednesday night. Widow dinner. But we’d leave Thursday morning. Right after traffic. She hated traffic, so we would miss the traffic. Be ready, she said, just be ready.
We were ready, but she wasn’t. There were complications. Among them, the fact that she had decided to get new tires put on the truck. For the drive, you understand, new tires for the drive. We would be out of here at noon. But at noon she was taking a friend to see an apartment. She had a good heart, you see, she had to help her friend. “So,” she said, “call me at 1.”
At 1 there were more unspecified errands. So hang on, be patient, she’ll call soon. Five hours later, she called to tell us to walk down to her old shop, the one she used to run on Hollywood Boulevard. I mentioned that the photographer had $25,000 worth of camera equipment and didn’t think lugging it down Hollywood Boulevard was a good idea. She said if she had to come pick us up, it would just take longer. We lugged that equipment down Hollywood Boulevard.
I thought we were taking the Bronco, but she changed her mind. We were taking the truck. The truck was old, very old. There were bullet holes in the door. The driver’s-side window had been shot out and not replaced. She was wearing multiple sweatshirts to protect against the cold. Did we have jackets? We had jackets. The truck’s gauges didn’t work. We would have to be careful not to run out of gas. She told us to stow our gear in the truck and stop worrying, no car she’d driven had ever broken down.
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